Chanda Dutt Burmese Food
She has been promising me a memorable Burmese meal for absolute ages (ever since 2010, to be precise), but, as luck would have it, I could never coordinate my timings with Chanda Dutt’s, whenever she would do her popups around town. I swore to God I was jinxed, but then, DB asked me to attend a cooking class where she would be cooking up a few of the Burmese dishes, and I was immediately in. So, despite the missed deadlines and the dire threats from the client, I found myself hopping into a car and on my way to The Orient in New Town, Rajarhat, where there is a Burmese Food Festival going on till the . The cookery shop was part of the promos. 
Salad in the Making

I entered the premises of the space, and there was Chanda Dutt. She told us she would be making a few dishes, and explained to us some of the ingredients which are pretty unique to Burmese cuisine. For example, the ‘Ngapi‘ (gNappi is the right way of saying it, with a nasal g), or the fermented fish or shrimp paste, is something that is essential to most Burmese dishes, and you will have to source it from somewhere, because its extremely potent. I have to admit, it is strong stuff, and a little goes a long way, and many people cannot tolerate the smell of it, like my very personal mother.

Shan Tofu Salad

We started off with a stunning Shan Tofu Salad, made with chickpea flour tofu, fried tofu skins, and quite a few other ingredients. She made it with quick and economic movements, mixing, tasting, adding and adjusting, and soon, we were all huddling in front of the plate, and picking little bits of the soft tofu, mixed with a good bit of chili oil, and fried garlic slivers.

She then started on her famous Khao Suey. She admitted later that it was her favorite dish to cook and eat, and this version was made with thick coconut milk. She started by frying about a quarter of a cup of onions and garlic in hot oil, and then added a tablespoon each of ginger, garlic, a teaspoon each of chilli powder, turmeric powder,  and ‘ngapi’ (you can make this optional if you are too afraid of it, and actually add a chicken stock cube), a tablespoon of fish sauce, and a tablespoon of fried and crushed garlic.

Then, while frying, she added about half a cup of chicken stock, then added a tablespoon each of rice flour and roasted gram flour, and stirred till they dissolved into the stock. Then, she carefully added about 250 ml. coconut milk, and brought it all to a boil. When the dish started to bubble, she added half cup of cooked and shredded chicken, and then more chicken stock, so that the consistency was not too runny or thick. She finished with a bit of rock sugar, tamarind pulp, and salt.

Khao Suey

To serve the Khao Suey, she put about 100 gm. boiled noodles and a handful of shredded cabbage in a bowl. Then she poured the chicken-laden soup on top of it, then add slices of onion, cabbage, chopped cilantro, chilli flakes, chilli oil (optional, but it looks lovely), chopped spring onions on top. We all waited patiently till she moved aside, then impolitely shoved each other as we grabbed bowls, and slurped noodles.

Chanda Dutt

Of course, then there was the Tomato Ngapi Chet, which basically is a fiery dish of chopped tomatoes and onions cooked with ngapi and dried shrimps. This dish is not for the faint-hearted, and it is perfect with some steamed rice and chopped cucumbers on the side, and a few green chillies. The pungency of ngapi is quite potent in this dish, and its that kind of a dish which you either love, or hate. I loved it.

Tomato Ngapichet

With the leftovers, a mixed salad was quickly constructed, by mixing rice, noodles, leftover chicken, leftover oil, crushed garlic, and crushed daalmoot. It is quite interesting to see the way Burmese food has developed over time – it has a unique combination of Thai, Bengali, Manipuri, Naga, Chinese, Portuguese and British influence, where the local flavours have seamlessly mixed with the need to preserve food for a long time, and the introduction of new, yet unseen vegetables to Burma during the British Raj and before, which brought in some interesting touches to the food.

Mixed Salad

After the cooking session, we remained for a while for sampling the Burmese menu at The Orient, and although I did not stay for long, I did love the deep fried spring rolls, and the chicken buns which were spicy and extremely filling.

Spring Rolls

And of course, to commemorate the fact that I FINALLY get to eat the food she cooked, photos were taken. However, I am waiting for the time when she cooks up a storm of pork and meat in the winter, and this time I will be there, I promise! You can always sample some lovely Burmese food at The Orient till 31st August. Call up +913365410399 to reserve your table.

Top Kolkata Bloggers with Chanda Dutt

Disclaimer: Poorna Banerjee dined at The Orient at the kind invitation of the management. 

Written by Poorna Banerjee

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